The GWM Ora… what?! Never heard of it? Never seen it before? Well, it’s a real car, it’s all-electric, and it’s on sale now. First impressions? What do you think? A small cuddly runabout? Perhaps around the size of a Fiat 500? It’s actually larger, about the same length and width of a Volkswagen Golf. Bigger than you think, small enough to scoot about the city.
And what of the styling? The illegitimate first born of a liaison between a Porsche 911 and a Volkswagen Beetle one night in Shanghai; it is catch-your-eye cute from the front, Beyonce bootylicious at the back, perhaps the only hint of it’s one and half ton bulk.
As we’ll see, it’s a smart little pup as well, packed to bursting with technology and kit, but much of the weight is down to the 48kWh Lithium-Ion battery pack, which will give this car a claimed 193-mile range. And to get the rest of the spec out of the way, there’s 170bhp and 250Nm of torque driving the front wheels, leaving it capable of accelerating from rest to 62mph in 8.3 seconds and reaching 99mph.
It’s from one of the world’s biggest manufacturers you’ve never heard of. GWM is Great Wall Motors of China, boasting five brands within its portfolio, selling nearly 1.3 million cars last year pulling in about £16.6 billion in gross revenue. It operates in 60 countries and employs 59,000 people and has joint ventures with the likes of BMW.
Ora was launched in China in 2018 as the group’s first electric car brand, so the Funky Cat (yes, it is actually called that) might be new to you and me, but it’s well past being a toddler with teething troubles. It hits our shores, among the very first places in Europe to welcome the Funky Cat, fully developed, with an already proven track record.
As such, despite being all-new to us, it comes wielding a full 5-star Euro NCAP crash safety rating and reassures buyers with a 5-year warranty and 8-year or 100,000-mile guarantee for the battery, with a service schedule once every two years or 18,000 miles. Prices start from £31,995 (£399 per month with a £3600 deposit) with distributor International Motors’ first four showrooms up and running and online purchasing also available.
At this point we should look at the practicality and useability of the Funky Cat. I thought I’d start with the boot, but keep getting distracted with the rear light show every time I click the key fob to unlock it. The light bar bisecting the rear hatch was clearly programmed by a Knight Rider fan because it does a captivating impersonation of KITT’s strobing front red scanner light. I almost expect the car to say ‘Hello Michael’ and you know what… Well, actually let’s come back to that.
As you swing up the boot, which is not powered, something that would not normally be surprising but is in this car by dint of its otherwise generous specification, you encounter a high lip that must be negotiated to get stuff in. There is 228-litres of space, expandable to 858-litres if you drop the 60:40 split-folding rear seats. Under the floor is space for the tyre repair kit, tools and charging cables.
For now, there will only be one spec available, the First Edition, with four colour exterior and interior colour combinations. A more performance-orientated GT version also arrives later next year. There are bright interior trims with influences ranging from quilted leather upholstery aping what you’d find in a Bentley, and toggle switches similar to a Mini.
As soon as you get in, you’re being watched, and listened to. On the A-pillar near the driver is a camera that not only monitors the driver for tiredness, but also being distracted. Take your eyes off the road and Funky Cat gets fiercely admonishing.
You can stop it from doing that, but ‘Hello Ora’ will call up a quaint little character on the centre screen able to answer your questions and do your bidding. The objective is that you should eventually get so familiar with this character that you’ll never need to touch the screen yourself.
As alluded to already, this thing is absolutely packed with tech including adaptive cruise control with stop-go, emergency braking, loads of airbags, power seats, a 6-speaker sound system, wireless charging, sat-nav, 360-degree camera (which automatically comes on at low speeds to help manoeuvring), sensors and just about everything you could want really.
The only thing missing is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but that’s coming, and Funky Cat will do an over-the-air update to the system to enable it. There’s even app that stays connected to your car.
It might look a compact thing, but four full-sized adults can comfortably travel in this, there’s a remarkable amount of rear legroom and no issues up front.
Driving modes include Eco, Normal and Sport (switch into that it sounds a cub-like eager roar), and there’s also a one-pedal mode. You don’t have to switch it on (although there is an off button) as soon as you’re in, it’s ready to go.
After a few minutes on the go, the biggest complaint you can muster up against it is the indicator stalk which returns to its default position rather than click into a different position. But after an hour or so you get used to it.
It’s keen on acceleration, especially in sports mode – where it might even spin its front wheels – but the low centre of gravity and firm but surprisingly comfortable ride, keep things well controlled. It’s not a sports car, but it’s not entirely dull to drive either, especially if you point it down some twisty roads. Most importantly, it’s a very easy drive.
Some have expressed disappointment that the price is well above £30k, as when it was first announced sub-£30k prices were mooted. However, two things: a) prices of all cars in those intervening couple of years have rocketed, and b) the level of spec on this car is of a scale you’d find in a £40k car.
The only other concern you might have is over a new brand from a country not that well known for making cars. At first acquaintance I can tell you that if feels better developed, higher quality and more solid than your typical Tesla.
With all of this in mind, we’re talking about yet another, relatively affordable, new entrant into the fast-filling EV segment, that’s definitely one to put on your shortlist.